Irish Potato Famine – the Start of the Irish American communities

  • December 06, 2017      Friendly Borders Staff

Boston – An exodus that led to a great population in the United States–this sums up the mass immigration of the people of Ireland in the 1840s. Countless Irish families moved to the cities of Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco in the United States. The major reason for this mass immigration was the potato famine that struck Ireland, forcing the Irish people to venture across the ocean to find new homes.

However, the famine was not the only reason for the exodus. Religious freedom, poor economic conditions, and servitude were also some of the reasons why Irish residents moved to American lands.

As a result of this mass immigration of the Irish to the US, the communities of Irish Americans grew and flourished. This is evident even in the US government; at least 22 US presidents were of Irish descent.

While the Irish Potato Famine seemed like the end to the Irish in Ireland, it served as a new beginning to the Irish American communities. They grew in number and made waves by sharing their distinct culture to the different people living in the US, whether locals or immigrants from other countries. The Irish learned to incorporate their traditions and practices in their new ways as they adjusted to their new American homes and communities.

Acculturation and Identity

What happens then to a community moving to another country, bringing their own set of culture and traditions? They make a mark on the land that they settled in. This is the same case with the Irish Americans.

However, there is also a downside to their easy acculturation. It is becoming more and more difficult to fully understand and distinguish how it is to have an Irish American ethnic identity. The gap between ethnic groups are lessened as intermarriage became more common.

Moreover, the Irish-American communities have chosen to live in the cities, the suburbs, and some rural regions. The younger members of their group have become a part of the diverse public school system where they communicate, interact, and develop skills that are not distinctly Irish-American. Nevertheless, people of Irish descent living in the US continue to take great pride in their ethnic ancestry.

As the Irish Americans continue to thrive in the US, there are some misconceptions about them that remain. Irish Americans are sometimes viewed as less cultured or even bigoted compared to other ethnic groups living in the United States. Despite these misconceptions, the fact remains that Irish Americans have contributed to American culture in a big way by leading union efforts, as they understood the power of organizing to meet their needs. In addition, the 22 US presidents of Irish descent have contributed to the development of the country in various ways. Thus, Irish Americans have contributed greatly to American culture.

Image from Irish American Heritage Center,